Stress aggravates diabetes. Stress raises blood sugar levels, activates fat cells, impairs glucose tolerance, increases insulin resistance and impacts blood pressure.
It's a Catch-22: Diabetes gets you stressed out and the stress worsens your diabetes.
Do you sometimes feel like your entire life is centered on your diabetes? When you’re snacking, you’re thinking about your blood sugar level. When you’re exercising, you’re nervous to work your body too hard. When you’re at work, you make sure you have a snack on you at all time or extra insulin shots. When you’re at home, your spouse and children try to not eat their favorite sweets around you.The stress of constantly thinking about diabetes can take a toll on your body.
We know that stress is not just bad for our mental health, but also bad for our physical health. This includes your diabetes and its often undiagnosed companion, hypertension. It’s not bad to be a little more conscious or concerned about your health—but high stress levels can negatively impact your body and potentially worsen your condition.
High stress can worsen your diabetes in 5 different ways:
1. Stress raises blood sugar levels
Why does extra tension in your body cause your blood sugar to go up even if you haven’t eaten anything? There are a number of factors that go into this, but a primary reason is that stress triggers the body to release cortisol, which is a hormone that helps the body get through tough situations (the fight-or-flight situations).
When cortisol comes out to play, your heart rate and breathing speed up. This also sends glucose and protein stores from your liver into the blood to make energy immediately available to your muscles. In other words, your body releases sugar into the blood so that the energy can get throughout your system. The result: higher blood sugar levels.
2. Stress activates our fat cells
That isn’t the end of the story for cortisol. Cortisol also triggers an enzyme in our fat cells that helps relocate fat from storage deposits around the body to fat cell deposits deep in the abdomen, also known as visceral fat cells. Stress can actually cause many people to accumulate more belly fat.
The more stress you have, the more cortisol is in your body and the more abdominal fat you’ll find.In studies, these central fat cells have been linked to not only a greater risk for heart disease, but also a higher risk for diabetes. If you already have diabetes, your condition can grow worse because of an overall elevated level of stress and cortisol in your system.
Not only that, but cortisol also increases food cravings, which are already hard to manage with diabetes.
Stress-induced cortisol increases food cravings, making it even harder to manage your diet.
3. Stress contributes to insulin resistance
Cortisol also makes it more difficult for the pancreas to secrete insulin, which is needed to move sugar out of the blood and into the cells for energy, stabilizing the concentration of sugar within your blood. Over time, the pancreas struggles to keep up with the high demand for insulin. Glucose levels in the blood remain high. Cells cannot get the sugar they need and the cycle continues.This all contributes to insulin resistance—which you’re already fighting against—and may worsen your condition.
4. Stress impacts sleep, which impairs glucose tolerance
Often times, stress leaves us tense and anxious and can cause sleep problem. Many studies have shown the negative health impacts of not getting enough sleep. The impact on diabetes is no exception.
Although everyone has their own standards of what good sleep is, keep in mind that sleeping less than six hours a night has also been found to contribute to impaired glucose (or sugar) tolerance, a condition that often precedes or can worsen the progress of type 2 diabetes.
Add to this, the fact people who are tired tend to eat more because they want to get energy from somewhere. This is usually by consuming sugar or other foods that can spike blood sugar levels, further aggravating their diabetes.
5. Stress affects your blood pressure
Let’s go back to the hormone cortisol for a moment. Another one of cortisol’s functions is to narrow the arteries throughout the body in order to allow blood to pump harder and faster through the rest of the body.
In fight-or-flight situations, this is advantageous because delivery of oxygenated blood throughout the body.However, constant stress over time keeps the blood vessels constricted and keeps your blood pressure high.
Over time this high blood pressure (or hypertension) can worsen many of the complications of diabetes, including diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. In fact, many people with diabetes eventually develop high blood pressure.It is no wonder that diabetes and hypertension often go hand-in-hand. Looking out for one can help prevent or alleviate the other.
A quick and simple step to help better your health:
Follow the BB principles (https://www.bigbreakfast.co.za/pages/how-to-start-on-the-big-breakfast);
Spend time in the sun;
Get 6-8 hours of sleep;
Switch off blue light after 20:00;
Take Chill Pill each day.